The four wildcard invitations for this year’s Tour de France have been reserved for French teams, race organizers Amaury Sports Organisation (ASO) announced on Thursday. French teams Cofidis, Europcar, Francaise Des Jeux and Saur-Sojasun have been given the nod ahead of the Italian Geox outfit of Russian Denis Menchov, third in last year’s Tour de France, and 2008 winner Carlos Sastre of Spain – meaning those racers will miss out.
Despite having heavyweights Menchov and Sastre in their ranks, Geox are in the second division of cycling’s international hierarchy, as are the four French teams selected. In total 22 teams will compete in this year’s race which gets underway in the Vendee in western France on July 2.
Europcar and Movistar are new sponsors of already established teams with three new teams – Saur-Sojasun, Dutch outfit Vacansoleil and the Luxembourg Leopard team of brothers Andy and Frank Schleck and Switzerland’s Fabian Cancellara. Andy Schleck believes his new team can power him to a first Tour de France triumph after two successive, heartbreaking runner-up finishes to Spain’s Alberto Contador.